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FOCUS March 1998 Volume 11

The Rights Way to Development

In its 1994 report, The Rights Way to Development, the Human Rights Council of Australia (HRCA) made the case for placing development assistance policies within the internationally agreed human rights framework. The report generated considerable interest internationally and has since been widely cited.


The report recommends the following major changes for donors:

  1. an explicit commitment, at the highest level, to the realization of human rights through international cooperation as the overall mission of the development assistance program;

  2. a commitment to express development objectives in terms of human rights;

  3. an explicit priority focus on the disadvantaged and marginalized;

  4. coordination with the reporting bodies of the UN Human Rights Covenants including the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Human Rights Committee, and Committee on the Rights of the Child;

  5. the use and promotion in donor country programs of National Action Plans on human rights (as agreed at major UN conferences - Vienna, Copenhagen, Beijing) and the recommendation of the UN Treaty monitoring bodies;

  6. a commitment to focus both policy dialogue and technical cooperation on issues of budgetary priority, legislative and administrative change as part of an integrated development assistance strategy;

  7. a commitment to the participation of stakeholders as a recognized human right;

  8. the adoption of explicit policy principles for determining the extent of participation of different stakeholders and for resolving and arbitrating differences between them;

  9. the establishment of in-country teams of stakeholders to oversee country research and analysis, formulation of development objectives and strategy, and implementation, monitoring and evaluation of program;

  10. the agreement at a government-to-government level of a binding grievance procedure for governments and other stakeholders;

  11. the establishment of an independent inspection and monitoring panel open to stakeholders to ensure program consistency with human rights outcomes; and

  12. a policy to ensure that independent project contractors and consultants are both familiar with the program and project human rights objectives and are made contractually responsible for their realization.

HRCA has drafted a "manual for implementation" which shows how the adoption of the rights approach will affect all aspects of the development process and the relationship between stakeholders - from institutional change in the donor agency through the formulation of country strategies to the implementation and evaluation of projects.

The manual covers the establishment of broad policy objectives for the donor program, the nature of the policy dialogue between donor and recipient governments and other stakeholders, the meaningful participation of stakeholders, the research and analysis of the human rights situation in countries to establish baselines against which progress can be measured, the nature of support that will lead to the setting of priorities to achieve the human rights objectives, and monitoring and grievance procedures.

The manual intends to assist donor governments to implement existing policy commitments to the realization of human rights. In doing so, it suggests a means to achieve greater harmony in government policy between the traditional diplomatic pusuit of human rights (often primarily understood as civil and political rights) through foreign ministries and the traditional economic or basic needs approach of official donor agencies.

For recipient governments, implementation of the rights approach means specific mechanisms for holding donor governments accountable to their obligations to cooperate, through the provision of development assistance, in the realization of rights.

For further information, contact: Human Rights Council of Australia (Inc.) P.O. Box 841 Marrickville, Sydney, NSW 2204 Australia; ph/fax (612) 559-2269; e-mail: agf@peg.apc.org


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